It makes a difference…

This is our daun kesum

Daun kesum

…which is also known by a lot of names in English including Vietnamese mint, Vietnamese cilantro and so on. I think it is also called daun laksa locally and is an essential ingredient in the preparation of Penang assam laksa, together with the bunga kantan (torch ginger flower). I’ve heard it said that without these two very crucial ingredients, your bowl of Penang assam laksa is nowhere near the real thing and should not be called as such.

Of course, my plant, like everything else in my garden, is barely surviving and the leaves are kind of small but there is enough for us to use when we feel like it – after all, we do not use it all that often and we do not use all that much each time.

The ethnic population here in Sarawak use it a lot in their cooking. For instance, they would have these leaves in the celebrated ayam pansoh (chicken cooked in bamboo) along with all the other ingredients including tepus – a kind of wild gingerserai (lemon grass), tapioca leaves and all the rest. Just as in the case of the Penang assam laksa, it is not ayam pansoh if you do not have daun kesum in it…and the tepus is an added bonus – I do enjoy eating that very much too.

Well, I think I have cooked this steamed chicken dish with tuak (the ethnic traditional rice wine) before and blogged about it but I did not have any daun kesum then so I did not add any. It’s so very easy to cook, really – I think the hardest part would be chopping the chicken into bite-sized chunks.

First, I marinated the meat with a spoonful of cincaluk (fermented shrimps)…

Add cincaluk

Do not add too much as that can be very salty (especially the ones from Melaka) but without it, one would not get the special sweetness and taste that would bring the dish to a whole new level.

Add a spoonful or two of tuak, the daun kesum, serai and a few slices of ginger…

Added ingredients

…and I also added a bit of sliced chili.

Steam for around 30-45 minutes and your dish is ready…

Steamed tuak chicken 1

…to be served.

Yes, it was very very nice – no oil, no salt and no msg added…

Steamed tuak chicken 2

…and I sure would want to cook it this way again but I have used up all my tuak now – I hope I would be able to get some fresh supply or perhaps I would have to try something else, the traditional Chinese white wine that we usually use in our kacang ma chicken perhaps…and I am praying hard that my daun kesum plant will not die out on me. Sighhhh!!!!!